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MDC-T in crisis talks
Posted: Friday, January 9, 2009

By Mabasa Sasa & Sydney Kawadza
January 08, 2009
The Herald

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai this week summoned his top leadership to a crisis meeting in South Africa amid growing indications that the opposition is becoming increasingly isolated in the region and internationally for prevaricating over joining an inclusive Government with Zanu-PF and MDC.

The purpose of the meeting, according to Harvest House sources, is to restrategise in the face of the party's apparent failure to steamroll Sadc into forcing President Mugabe out of office in line with instructions from the United States and Britain.

Mr Tsvangirai reportedly called the meeting after realising that Sadc was standing by its Extraordinary Summit decision on the structure of the inclusive Government and that support from the African Union and the United Nations Security Council would not be forthcoming.

The sources said the opposition was also "worried" by the fact that President Mugabe and MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara were meeting with a view to finalising the formation of the inclusive Government.

At the same time, several ambassadors from regional countries based in Harare yesterday said it was "highly unlikely that the Sadc chair will agree to a meeting with Tsvangirai".

Mr Tsvangirai last week wrote a letter to Sadc chair and South African President Cde Kgalema Motlanthe asking him to arrange a meeting with President Mugabe.

"There are several indications that we might not be able to enlist Sadc support in forcing (President) Mugabe to capitulate," said an official in MDC-T's international relations department.

"The leadership had been reassured by the Americans and British that once South Africa's tenure in the UN Security Council ended on 31 December 2008, the way would be cleared for tough measures to be taken against Zanu-PF and (President) Mugabe.

"But Uganda, which replaced South Africa, has since come out openly saying they will not support Western interference in Zimbabwe's affairs through UN structures like the Security Council.

"Then there is also the aspect of China and especially Russia at the Security Council. The Zanu-PF conference in Bindura instructed Government to recognise the statehood of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"Such a move will definitely draw Russia closer to Zimbabwe because Moscow is the prime backer of these two territories' bid for sovereignty from Georgia.

"On the international front again, the Middle East bloc is decidedly against us and a hardening of positions against any pro-West political formation has accompanied the Israeli attacks on Palestine.

"Earlier this week the Arab League described Western involvement in Zimbabwe as demonic imperialism and blamed it for the situation prevailing in the country.

"At the same time, we had been assured that the US, through Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, would get Sadc to take a hardline approach on Zanu-PF, but we are yet to get feedback on that front.

"The leadership is worried that (President) Mugabe and Mutambara will forge ahead and form a Government with the backing of Sadc before any of their plans come to fruition," the source revealed.

A Sadc diplomat said his country had found it "strange" that Mr Tsvangirai should request a meeting with President Motlanthe.

"I cannot speak on behalf of the South African presidency, but in my communications with my own head office there has been consensus that this request is quite strange.

"In his letter Mr Tsvangirai makes it clear that he does not accept the decision reached by the Extraordinary Summit in Sandton. That meeting was chaired by President Motlanthe and how then can he expect to be looked on favourably in such a situation?

"Frankly, I do not see President Motlanthe acceding to this request for a meeting and I would be inclined to think his position would be to urge Mr Tsvangirai to return home," the diplomat said.

Another diplomat concurred, pointing out that Mr Tsvangirai's request was designed to emasculate the facilitator, Cde Thabo Mbeki.

"Mr Mbeki is the Sadc-appointed facilitator and such requests should naturally be directed to him and his team. My assessment is that President Motlanthe would read this as an attempt to play one South African against another.

"The South African president would not want to be seen to be weakening the hand of a fellow South African, more so when that South African is his predecessor. So I don't think that will take off the ground," he said.

One ambassador was more blunt: "Previously, Mr Tsvangirai was battling Zimbabwe and President Mugabe, but his letter, particularly the rejection of a summit decision, means he is now battling Sadc as well.

"It is a monumental error on Mr Tsvangirai's part because he is now challenging, nay, forcing Sadc as a bloc to defend its decision and its honour. That is a very tall order.

"It is common knowledge that the man is a poodle of America and Britain. What is uncommon is why a fellow opposition leader (Prof Mutambara) has now let the cat out of the bag. Is this the parting of ways? If it is, it means Mr Tsvangirai is walking a very lonely path henceforth."

Efforts to get a comment from MDC-T on the crisis meeting in South Africa were fruitless yesterday.

Party deputy spokesperson Ms Tabitha Khumalo said she was not "aware of any meeting" and referred all queries to her boss Mr Nelson Chamisa.

However, Mr Chamisa is understood to be in South Africa attending the meeting, which reportedly also includes businessman Mr Strive Masiyiwa.

Asked if President Mugabe would attend a meeting with Mr Tsvangirai as requested by the MDC-T leader, Presidential spokesperson Cde George Charamba said: "The President is not in the country, but my gut feeling is that he may not wish to overrun the office of the facilitator."

MDC secretary-general Professor Welshman Ncube yesterday queried why Mr Tsvangirai wanted to meet President Mugabe in President Motlanthe's presence in South Africa when Sadc had already passed a resolution on the implementation of the inter-party agreement.

"Everyone has been calling for Tsvangirai to return home so that the party's principals can discuss the formation of a new Government according to the September 15 political settlement because there is no reason for a meeting to be held outside the country.

"Tsvangirai has been asking for a passport and he got it. He should come back, we should go ahead and implement the agreement without further delay," Prof Ncube said.

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